New hands at mbuzini eatery

The Chronicle

Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent

BACK in the day, if one were to throw a stone in Magwegwe North suburb and shout “Mdala Judea”, chances are high that the stone could hit someone who knew the old man.

Ndlovu’s grandson Lethuxolo Ncube serves a customer (out of the picture)

 At the peak of Bulawayo’s industrial dominance, the norm was for a man to search for employment in the city’s sprawling factories and industries, but not Mdala Judea.  He refused to conform to that norm.  At a time when venturing into entrepreneurship was widely viewed as a ‘white man’s domain’, Mdala Judea had other plans, which definitely did not involve going into formal employment.

 His idea of entrepreneurship, looking back years after he first established his business in the 1970s, must have sounded outlandish, if not totally ridiculous, even to his own family.

 His idea was to sell goat meat.

 Not as a butchery or registered abattoir, but as a backyard informal eatery that would cater for community members with an appetite for goat meat – boiled or braaied.

 It’s a pity, almost two years later after he departed this earth to meet his Maker, Mdala Judea had not told the world what motivated him to venture into that line of business.  Bulawayo men are known for their love of meat, their love for delicacies such as ezangaphathi, amangqina and inhloko. Mdala Judea, being a man with a vision, saw a business opportunity that would provide men from his local community with such delicacies.

 He must have known that the way to a Bulawayo man’s heart was through meat. And he did not disappoint.  Thus Mbuzini – the popular local backyard eatery was established.

 Born Judea Ndlovu, the old man passed away in March last year, but his legacy still lives on, thanks to his two granddaughters – Nomabutho Ndlovu and Lethuxolo Ncube. The two, having learnt the tricks of the trade from the old man himself, are carrying the legacy of their granddad on their shoulders.

 The Mbuzini business is not your typical fancy outlet that a grandchild can simply take over from their grandfather. Like any business venture, it’s a dog-eat-dog kind of business; competition is tight with new establishments mushrooming every other day on street corners in the ‘hood’.

Running Mbuzini is no easy feat, it involves going to rural areas to select good breeds of goats, transporting the animals to Bulawayo, slaughtering and preparing them to the last stage when the meat lands on a happy customer’s plate.

 Nomabutho doesn’t regret leaving a cushy job in South Africa to take over the family business. In fact, she feels the decision to relocate back to Bulawayo had been long overdue.

 “Our grandmother fell sick in 2020, at the height of national lockdowns in both Zimbabwe and South Africa and grandfather asked my sister and I to come back home and take care of grandma.

 “Companies were already closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we saw no reason to stay in South Africa so the decision to come back home and take care of our grandmother was not a difficult one.

Some of the meat dishes at eMbuzini in Magwegwe North

 “Bit by bit we started assisting with the running of the business and to our surprise we actually enjoyed it and it also meant our grandfather could take a rest knowing that the business was in capable hands.

 “We were not new to the business; we grew up watching our grandfather selling goat meat to his clients on a daily basis,” Nomabutho told Saturday Leisure. 

 The transition from life in South Africa to a permanent stay in Bulawayo, taking over their grandfather’s business was not without its challenges.

 The pull factors were the realisation that running Mbuzini meant the two sisters would be their own bosses and that they would determine their working hours.  Working and living in a foreign land is never easy, especially in light of anti-foreigner movements that are emerging in South Africa, whose appetites for violence know no mercy, so the sisters are happy to be home.

 “Nothing beats the feeling of being home, in your own country and running a business that has been in the family’s hands for years. So, yes, we are happy to be here doing what our grandfather taught us,” said Nomabutho.

 The success or failure of any business is measured by the ‘bottom line’ – a phrase commonly used in business circles in reference to the profitability of a business after all expenses are deducted from revenues.

 “We are doing okay, there is always room for improvement in business and obviously we also dream of expanding and growing big.

“Our grandfather taught us to be patient to succeed in business so we are taking our journey one step at a time,” chipped in Nomabutho’s sister, Lethuxolo.

 Humility and total regard for the needs of customers were the cornerstones of the success of Mbuzini under Mdala Judea. For clients who experienced Mdala Judea’s hospitality before his passing, one would swear the old man is still around judging by the customer care exhibited by Nomabutho and Lethuxolo.

 Who would forget watching Mdala Judea meticulously hacking through an entire goat as he separated various parts for sale to his ever-reliable clientele? Many customers were left mesmerised at the way a full goat was slaughtered and cut into pieces in a matter of minutes.

 He would tell of his stories when he first established the Mbuzi business back in the 1970s, initially in Old Magwegwe before eventually moving to Magwegwe North.

 Mdala Judea would proudly talk of the people who had visited his humble home just to get a piece of goat meat, and how one happy customer brought along more friends to experience the full Mbuzini package in the heart of Bulawayo’s western areas.

 The sisters are continuing with that legacy, a piece of history that has been in the making for over 50 years. A piece of history that was started by a man who wanted to pave his own path in life by creating a business that had never been tried before.

 Today, the girls employ two male helpers, support two goat suppliers from the Gwanda area and feed multitudes of goat meat lovers, seven days a week.

 Mdala Judea must be smiling from the Heavens above as his name and legacy still live on, thanks to his two granddaughters.  — @RaymondJaravaza

Article Source: The Chronicle

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